Three seductions of consciousness

Moving image triptych, 3 channel HD video & sound, 2021

PART 1: WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Automation is progressively taking over many of the tasks and jobs humans don’t want to do. Some AI scientists (‘Life 3.0’, M. Tegmark) claim that machine intelligence can create a world of luxury and comfort, where we get what we want. But what do we want?

Yuval Harari ends his popular book Sapiens by suggesting: “The only thing we can try to do is to influence the direction scientists are taking. But since we might soon be able to engineer our desires too, the real question facing is is not ‘What do we want to become?’, but ‘What do we want to want?’ Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven’t given it enough thought.”

‘What do you want?’ is part of the triptych Three Seductions of Consciousness. It is a meditation guided by a cyborg, trying to understand human desire in order to fulfill it.

PART 2: FRAGILITY AS CONSTRAINT

In the field of robotics, fragility is a serious constraint. Research into soft robotics is an attempt to overcome this limit. At Cornell University’s soft robotics lab, robotic hands equipped with optical sensors have been developed to handle soft fruit without crushing it.

In this guided meditation, a robot has developed a form of affective poetics to share its techniques of loving kindness with humans. Reciting its knowledge through cosmic imagery, the voice assists human hands in rediscovering the fragility of the self, and its need to protect itself from others.

PART 3 / THE UTOPIA FREQUENCY

The Utopia Frequency takes you on a journey of seduction, hypnosis, dissolution led by the character of the Mass Ornament (the alter-ego to the Salary Man character). Borrowing from the imagery of the golden age of Hollywood and its techniques of seduction, which were the deployed by the advertising industry to unleash consumer desire in the early 20th century. These tactics of visual manipulation have assisted in fueling the eco-catastrophic tsunami of a culture founded on extractive global capitalism.

Functioning as a subliminal meditation set to the tone of the contemporary mindfulness industry, the combination of sound and imagery is composed to penetrate the bodies and psyche of the viewers. The composition is based on frequencies that entrain the brainwaves and invoke a range of emotions, from comfort and relaxation, to fear and dread. It features fossils from the earliest appearance of life on earth, over half a billion years ago. The Garden of Ediacara as the geological era is known, was a time when the oceans were populated by soft-bodied creatures with fascinating geometrical forms, living in an edenic environment, without predation, just feeding on sunlight and flowing with the sea currents.

Ediacara fossils courtesy of Natural History Museum, London

Part of the video triptych: Three Seductions of Consciousness